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Death Benefits for Car Accident Cases in Ontario: A Review

Toronto has seen a spike in pedestrian/car and bike/car accidents. Toronto has also seen a spike in fatality claims arising from such accidents. Vision Zero is a multi-national road traffic safety project that aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries involving road traffic. Vision Zero has been implemented in Toronto, but its objectives have not been met. The goals are ambitious, and failure to reach those goals is a “good try“. Harsher critics would call it a failure.

Fatality claims on Toronto Roads have hit such a crisis point that City Council voted unanimously to double this year’s road safety budget in light of recent cyclist and pedestrian deaths and public outcry. An additional $22 million in annual municipal spending will go towards accomplishing Vision Zero goals in the City of Toronto. This more than doubles the initial budget of Vision Zero, which had been set at around 21.3 million.

We can all agree that nobody should be seriously injured, or killed while using our streets either as a motorist, cyclist, or pedestrian. Our streets should be safe; and the fear of getting run over by a car shouldn’t run rampant in your mind when out and about trying to enjoy city life in Toronto.

But what happens when Vision Zero doesn’t work; and you or a loved one has been seriously injured, or worse yet, killed in an auto accident? Where you do you go? What do you do?

All good questions.

The purpose of this week’s installment of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog is to examine what to do when it comes to fatality claims caused by a motor vehicle accident. The information provided in this Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Post applies to motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and passengers who have been victimized by a serious motor vehicle accident. For more in depth information, please contact personal injury lawyer Brian Goldfinger.

First, our condolences are with you are your family if you have lost a loved one in a car accident. It’s not an easy time. The thoughts and prayers of everyone here at Goldfinger Injury Lawyers are with you.

Once the dust has settled, and the shock and feelings of disbelief have died down, it’s time to deal with the legalities of the situation.

Ontario has a system of “no fault” accident benefits. That means that regardless of whose fault the accident was, you MUST report the accident to your own car insurer. Even if you aren’t insured, but live with somebody who is insured, you have to report the fatality claim to that insurer.

It seems weird that you own insurer has to respond to the loss. After all, the deceased may have done nothing wrong aside from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Nonetheless, this is how car insurance in Ontario works. Report the accident to your own insurer to start the process.

Your own insurer is responsible to pay for accident benefits in relation to the car accident. This is different than suing the at fault driver for pain and suffering.

The specific accident benefit available in a fatality claim are fewer than if the accident victim were still living. The accident benefits available in a fatality claim are called “Death and Funeral Benefits“; and here’s what they cover:

  • $25,000 lump sum to an eligible spouse
  • $50,000 lump sum to an eligible spouse if optional benefits were purchased
  • $10,000 lump sum to each dependent
  • $20,000 lump sum to each dependent if optional benefits were purchased
  • up to $6,000 in funeral expenses
  • up to $8,000 in funeral expenses if optional benefits were purchasedGoldfinger-logo-icon-300x300

In the event that there is no accident benefit coverage, don’t fret. In that situation, the priority rules under the Insurance Act are in effect. If there is no first party coverage (meaning you don’t have car insurance), then the at fault driver’s car insurance will pay these funeral and death benefits. If the at fault driver was driving illegally without car insurance, don’t fret! The Ontario Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund will pay the funeral and death benefits. The Ontario Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund is intended to be a claim of last resort that you’re only allowed to claim from in the event that there is no other car insurance whatsoever at play.

Grieving family members are entitled to accident benefits for counselling as well. They have to make claims through their own car insurer, even though they were not involved in the car accident. The insurer may pay for grief counselling, or other therapy costs associated with the grieving process.

Suing the at fault driver is separate and apart from the accident benefit claim detailed above.

If the at fault driver is found to be negligent, or at fault for the car accident, immediate family members can sue that driver pursuant to the Family Law Act for loss of guidance, care and companionship. Before September 2010, there use to be a $15,000 deductible applied to these claims. That deductible no longer applies. But, the valuation of these Family Law Act claims for loss of guidance, care and companionship isn’t as high as the general public would expect.

In the 2000 decision of Hechavarria v. Reale (2000), 2000 CanLII 22711 (ON SC), 51 O.R. (3d) 364 three adult children who all lived at home were awarded just$30,000 each on the sudden death of their  53 year old mother, who was considered caring, loving and supportive.

In Singleton v. Leisureworld, an elderly grandmother passed away at a senior’s home. The children of the deceased were awarded $30,000 each, while each grandchild was awarded just $10,000 each.

In Lachance v. Gosselin Estate, 1994 Carswell Ot 3759, the mother died in a car accident. She had six living children. The two eldest lived close to the deceased and had a close relationship with her. The two eldest sons received just $10,000 each, and all of the other children received $2,500 each.

The above noted damages are for the loss of guidance, care and companionship of a loved one. They do not account for the income loss to the family unit (if any) or the loss of servitude to an individual’s corporation if they ran one. Those claims can be significant if the deceased was an income earner.






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